Smile Docs

Cherry red. Periwinkle blue. Badass, knee-high, lace-up black patent. I have three pair of Doc Martens, and I love them all. Despite having recently downsized, given away many of my things, and my new strict anything-new-in-something-old-out rule, I’d buy more if the right pair came along.

Not because, despite their classic clunky appearance, they are like walking on English cirrus clouds.

Not because their solid British construction portends that they will outlive me and my progeny’s progeny.

Not because I am a single, 57-year old suburban empty nester having a midlife crisis and trying to look like a London East End teen.

I would buy more because they invariably make me, and everyone else, smile.

The cherry reds accompanied me to a dharma talk at the Do Ngak Kunphen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Ridgefield. Of course shoes come off before entering the sanctuary, but after the teaching, I sat on the simple bench in the entryway to lace them back up.

“I like your boots,” said the monk on my right, his feet still bare. His Tibetan accent threw me for a moment, but I followed his gaze down. His own rich burgundy robe grazes the floor and my boots.

“Thank you so much. They make me smile.”

“Ah,” he sighed deeply, nodded, and smiled broadly himself. I felt a bit more peaceful.

The periwinkles carried me to the beach on a particularly sparkly winter day. Snow formed a white lattice on the frozen beige sand. I hugged the shore as I walked since the tide was out. The boots steadied me in the mushier surf-soaked sand. Three large, happy black labs paused momentarily in their pursuit of a tennis ball to say hello. They greeted me with wet slobber, and wagged their tails enthusiastically to show me how pleased they were with themselves, with me, with life in general.

“Hi, boy! How are you!” my voice rose an octave to doggie range.

“I hope they’re not bothering you.” A decidedly non-canine voice. Their human joined us. “Nice boots.”

“Thanks so much. They make me smile.” I paused for a moment. “The boots do, too.” He waved as he trotted off to follow the dogs, who decided to chase seagulls. I felt a bit more playful.

The badass black patent pair is harder to get on, and there are fewer opportunities to wear them, but they are no less comfortable or entertaining.

They come out for special occasions. I was delighted to have been invited to a private viewing of paintings at The Frick Collection in New York, including Fabritius’s Goldfinch and Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. An upper crust crowd filled the rooms. Their outfits cost more than I spend on clothes in a year.

“Great boots.” An older, conservative-looking suit said with perfect elocution.

“Thank you so much,” I said in genuine surprise. “They make me smile.”

“I see.” He bowed imperceptibly as he wandered off. I felt a bit more confident.

Unlike many, I welcome the autumn, and even the winter. The cold affords me the best opportunity to wear them, so the colder the better. They seem to have some magical powers. They make me smile. And, it seems, they have that effect on others, too.


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